Understanding And Building A Location-Based App

Most of the apps today use location features to improve performance. You’ve probably come across the “Allow xyz app to access device’s location” notification almost every time you’ve downloaded a new app.

According to a 2021 report by Research and Markets, the location-based app market is projected to be worth more than $150 billion by 2026. Geolocation is key for apps that fall in logistics, delivery, and other service industries. From delivery apps like Talabat to booking platforms like Q8 Taxi, apps that use geolocation have consistently generated really good revenue. By allowing interaction in real time, these apps have completely transformed the dynamic between brands and their consumers.

While some geo-dependent mobile apps cannot work without locating the user, like those used for finding directions, places, and people, there are others that simply take advantage of geolocation features to make their services convenient. Retailers use geofencing to send messages to nearby users; social networking apps let users tag locations when posting; weather apps use user locations to send real-time alerts about weather conditions; fitness tracking apps can help you map routes, track speed, and connect with fellow fitness pals in the area.

Businesses today need geo-dependent apps because:

  • They can be used as a marketing tool to reach target audiences.
  • They allow users to get useful information about nearby places and objects.
  • They let companies register places on the map and allow users to leave feedback about select services in these specific places on the map.
  • They can help integrate Augmented Reality (AR) by providing virtual tours with great navigation capabilities.

Just to define things more clearly, location-based apps are apps that allow businesses to offer services to users based on their immediate geographical location. The location details are transferred through Wi-Fi, cell tower data, and satellite/GPS. All smartphones have built-in Global Positioning System (GPS) which can be improved through Wi-Fi or mobile network.

Let’s list these locating technologies.

  • GPS - The GPS is a network of satellites that regularly orbit the Earth. People who own any device with GPS have the ability to receive radio signals from these satellites. This process helps their GPS chip to provide the exact coordinates of their location with fairly good reliability. It doesn’t require an internet connection or any other special conditions either. However, GPS is infamous for high power consumption and it’s susceptibility to atmospheric conditions and other obstacles.
  • Cellular Tracking - Phones can pick up their current location based on cell tower signals. This locating technique works great in metropolitan areas and doesn’t require the availability of a GPS signal. It does have a low positioning accuracy though.
  • Assisted GPS Service (A-GPS) - Another strong locating technology, A-GPS first generates combined data obtained from the server and the satellite. It then transmits the data through Wi-Fi or a cellular connection. A-GPS works great in problem areas like tunnels and forests. But its higher accuracy comes with a caveat: higher energy consumption.
  • Wi-Fi - Because public Wi-Fis usually have coordinates, they can be classified as geo-markers. They work similar to GPS except they cover smaller areas. They’re super easy to connect to and the location can be tracked pretty quickly.
  • Bluetooth & NFC - Phones have the ability to detect Bluetooth and NFC signals that come from tech-enabled sensors. These sensors generally have limited or micro range, ideal for indoor location tracking.
  • Geofencing - Becoming more and more popular every year, geofencing is actively and successfully being used in a ton of mobile apps. It operates within a virtual radius. When a user enters the specific area, they will receive a notification (or be subject to another predetermined action). So, if a customer is near a store that uses geofencing, and already has the store’s application installed on their smartphone, they will be able to receive a notification for an ongoing sale. Geofencing can cover large locations but has a high power consumption.

These technologies make up the core of any location-based app. Now let’s get to the actual creation of a geolocation app. Because geolocation apps can get a bit tricky, it is ideal to rely on professional app development companies or mobile app developers in Kuwait. You might find this process, though systematic and well-structured, to be slightly different from the process used for other mobile applications.

1. Research & Exploration

Just like for any other mobile app, the mobile app development process for location-based apps also begins with market study. Research is important because you want to build a solution that is actually valuable for consumers. Taking the time to study pre-existing location-based apps will help you define what you can offer that your competitors lack. There is great benefit in understanding existing market leaders and speaking with potential users. And if all of this seems a little out of your domain, you can always hire app development companies in Kuwait, to make the process easier.

2. Prototype ⟩ MVP ⟩ MFP

A prototype is an interactive representation of an app. Its purpose is to validate the technical feasibility of the app before investing in actually coding it.

  • If you’re creating an app with GPS or any other locating technology as its core feature, you want to start with a minimum functional prototype (MFP). You can develop an MFP to test for geolocation features specifically and ensure that they’re in line with your vision. An MFP is a smaller version of a minimum viable product (MVP) and will help you determine whether or not you can proceed with an MVP to test for other features.
  • If location awareness is not the main feature of your app, and the same functionality exists in various other apps, then you might just need to focus on the prototype. This includes designing rough app wireframes, testing the prototype with users, and improving based on feedback.

Once the prototyping and MFP are tested for, you can start building the MVP of your app by writing the code and adding maps. You can also opt to test the interim app builds.

3. Tech Stack

Your chosen app platform (iOS, Android, etc.) will decide the kind of technology stack you should be using. Adding the correct location-based Software Development Kit (SDK) to your app will allow you to access the most accurate location data from users’ devices. For both Android and iOS apps, you can add maps based on Google Maps data, with the help of Maps SDK. Similarly, the Apple MapKit can be used in iOS for displaying locations on the map. Other frameworks for adding location-based features to your app include HERE, MapBox, Foursquare API, and Facebook Places. Your best bet is Google Maps since it offers both a smart interface and a sweet design. Special care needs to be taken to ensure speed and reliability of these apps since GPS tends to drain significant battery.

Since developing a location-based app can be fairly time-consuming, it’s important to use state-of-the-art development methodologies and hire reliable mobile app developers in Kuwait who have specific expertise in this particular app domain.

4. Features & Functions

To help you enrich your app with geolocation features, we have consolidated a list of essentials:

  • Map Integration - Users can mark places on a map, plan routes, indicate specific locations, etc. It can be used offline
  • Location Tracking - User location can be determined and if the user were to attend the same place again, they can be relocated based on stored data.
  • GPS Tracking - User distance along with fitness activities (like running, swimming, etc.) can be monitored. All pictures taken at the location will be posted on the map.
  • Voice Guide - Drivers can monitor their route, avoid traffic jams, and reroute, without being distracted from the road.
  • Suggestions - User’s online habits are analyzed in order to suggest relevant local events, news, and places to visit.

It’s best not to overload and keep the features to a minimum, especially for the app’s initial version.

5. UI/UX, Security, Testing, & Release

Since these last few steps are pretty similar to the stages in the development process of a standard mobile application, we have combined them into one.

During testing, your QA person might need to roam around outdoors/indoors to ensure that the mapping works alright. You should verify that your GPS is app-secure by working on data safety. Finally, during release, you can consider beta-testing mode if you wish to run more tests in different geographical locations.

If you’re interested in learning more about user design, security steps, and the pre- and post-release process, take a look at one of our introductory blogs on mobile app development.

Need assistance with your location-based app? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Design Master is among the best mobile app development companies in Kuwait. We have been leading Android and iOS application development with the help of a stellar team of mobile app developers in Kuwait. Our developers can walk you through the entire thing, from concept to product launch. Take a look at our portfolio to learn more about how we integrate locating technologies across a range of different apps.

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